I have been close friends with Kurt Adams for several years. We may go a few months without seeing each other since we are both busy, but when we do see each other it is never awkward or strange — we just pick up where we last left off.
The first time I heard of the issue of First Wind stock options was when my wife mentioned it to me last month. I was more than mildly surprised, and I'll tell you why.
I remember the first time that Kurt and I went out to lunch. We met at some little burger joint in Augusta. When the check came, I reached out and said magnanimously, “I'll get this.” After all, I did invite him to lunch, and the check was under $10. He responded, “No, I can't let you do that.” We went back and forth until he finally said, “No, you don't understand, I cannot let you buy me lunch because of my position in state government.” He really would not accept a hamburger for fear it be perceived as a bribe.
I thought he was nuts.
Through the next five years, I just learned to accept the fact that if we went out to dinner, lunch, or anything else, he would not allow me to treat him to a meal, or even a cup of coffee — ever.
I can honestly say that I do not know a politician, political appointee, or state employee who is more honest than Kurt Adams.
I grew up in a house where politicians were a part of life. Ed Muskie was a frequent overnight guest (his feet used to stick over the end of the bed). In the old days, things were a bit more lenient. We might loan a politician a car for the day, or maybe a week, or perhaps a summer if they were a close friend. No one thought a thing about it. Today, that wouldn't fly. (I can't say I'm heartbroken.)
Kurt is strict about his moral code — he's the only person I know that while working for the governor and then at the Public Utilities Commission, insisted on paying full sticker for cars. I have sold Kurt two cars while he was in government — at list price. At his insistence. He wouldn't even negotiate. There should be more like him.
Anyone who insists on paying list price for a car (twice!) is either too straight for words or crazy.
I don't know any of the details of his receiving stock options, but I do know that if given the choice of attributing his stock acceptance to either an honest blunder or bad ethics, I believe his ethics to be above reproach.
It reminds me of the answer I received from a Rabbi friend of mine in response to me asking him why Kosher Jews could not have margarine on the dinner table. (Kosher Jews cannot mix butter and meat, but they are allowed to eat kosher margarine.) His response was, “While there may be no harm in it, it doesn't look right.”
I have to say this of my friend Kurt: While it doesn't look right, I believe that there was no harm in it.
Adam D. Lee is president of Lee Automalls. He is also chairman of the Energy Conservation Board, which is being dissolved as of July 1, 2010. He was appointed by Kurt Adams while he was chairman of the PUC. Lee lives in Cumberland.